A TALK WITH ANONYMOUS 4

by Jill Kimball

The whole early music world sighed in sadness earlier this month when Anonymous 4 announced 2015-16 would be the group’s last season together. (No, really–they’re serious this time.)

Anonymous 4

Luckily, the group cushioned the blow with an astounding record just released this week on the Cantaloupe label: love fail.

The piece for two sopranos, two altos and percussion was composed exclusively for Anonymous 4 by David Lang, who is perhaps best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning the little match girl passion. Lang’s vocal music is haunting and sparse, much like the medieval music Anonymous 4 is known for.

We asked Anonymous 4 member Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek a few questions about love fail, working with David Lang, and what the future holds for these famed singers:

Anonymous 4 usually concentrates on centuries-old music. Why did you feel compelled to record love fail, an entirely new piece?

Well, actually, Anonymous [4] has commissioned several composers in the past, including Steve Reich, Richard Einhorn and Sir John Tavener. We love the idea of collaboration with composers who have an interest in early music and the sonorities of our  voices–and it’s fun to create something new.

What is love fail all about?

It’s about the challenges and rewards of developing a relationship with another human being. David picked and arranged texts ranging from medieval sources, such as Marie de France, to the poems of Lydia Davis. The pieces are in turn heart-wrenching and funny–just like love and life.

What was your favorite part about performing this piece?

Some of the individual movements, such as “head heart,” are so moving and beautiful that they are almost hard to sing…in a good way! We enjoyed the contrasts between the profound and the comical, but ultimately the sheer beauty of David’s music makes it a very special piece to perform. And we get to play percussion instruments, which is great fun!

Love fail is a piece whose composer is alive and able to provide you with feedback—an unusual thing in the Anonymous 4 universe. What was it like working with David Lang?

David is a wonderful collaborator who really wrote this piece with our voices and individual strengths in mind. Always willing to listen and change things if necessary, this piece grew and developed out of our mutual contributions.

Millions of people will mourn the loss of Anonymous 4 come 2016, but as musicians ourselves, we know how exciting it can be to move on to a new project. Tell us about your future musical plans.

The members of the group have actually been doing individual projects for several years now and we are all looking forward to developing those further…here, in our own words:

Jacqui will continue her work both as a mezzo-soprano soloist specializing in early and new music and as a voice teacher with a studio in NYC. She also gives masterclasses and ensemble technique workshops at Colleges throughout the US.This Fall she will be starting a Doctoral Program- a D.M.A in Voice- at The Juilliard School.

Marsha will be doing more research and performance of American music; she also plans to seek a new role in the Bay Area, supporting and funding performing artists and ensembles.

Susan will be developing a new podcast radio program — called “ChantVillage” — about chant from all spiritual traditions, both historically and in the world today. She will also continue leading Chant Camps, and teaching college courses on medieval and American popular music.

Ruth will continue singing early music in both concert and liturgical settings as well as expanding her work in improvisatory performance with a variety of other instrumentalists and singers. She also teaches workshops and offers individual sessions in sound healing and improvisation.

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